Bid to hack Priyanka’s phone: Congress cites WhatsApp warning

security breach, SPG, Z-plus security, assassination of prime ministers
Congress leaders in Parliament have been demanding the Centre to restore the SPG cover withdrawn from the Gandhis. Photo: PTI File

The Congress on Sunday (November 1) claimed that senior party leader Priyanka Gandhi had received a message from WhatsApp informing her that her phone was suspected to have been hacked.

The party, however, did not say exactly when Gandhi received the message. “I want to tell that Priyanka Gandhi also received a similar message from WhatsApp around the same time,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, responding to a question about Praful Patel and Mamata Banerjee receiving messages from the Facebook-owned messaging platform.

Gandhi received the message around the same time when WhatsApp was sending similar messages to those whose phones were allegedly hacked, Surjewala said.

Congress-headed panels to probe WhatsApp snoopgate

Two parliamentary panels headed by Congress leaders have decided to examine the WhatsApp snooping case.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Thursday (October 31) said that Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus. Describing the entire WhatsApp snooping episode as worrisome, Congress leader Anand Sharma, who chairs the parliamentary standing committing on home affairs, said that this issue will be taken up at the panel’s next meeting on November 15.

Shashi Tharoor, who heads the parliamentary standing committee on information technology said he will consult other members by email on the matter. “In any case, cybersecurity is a major issue on our agenda and we are definitely going to take this up under that rubric. And we will be seeking clarifications from the government,” Tharoor said.

He said, as the WhatsApp NSO issue has emerged in the open it is important to ensure that no other social media platform can be similarly used. “It is vital that as a democracy, India remains vigilant about the risk of our freedoms being eroded by technological means. We must not, at any price, become a surveillance state like China,” he said.

Meanwhile, the WhatsApp had said that it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users.

These users span across four continents and include diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has asked WhatsApp for a detailed report on the allegations.

Facebook owned WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India accounts for about 400 million.

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